The Top 10 blogs on our top 20 list are written by people well known to CRM professionals. There’s a reason for that: In order to understand and appreciate the discipline of CRM, you must be a person who values other people, and part of valuing people is being able to communicate with them.
As a result, these bloggers bring a unique combination of insight and personality to their posts. They’re readable as they’re talking technology, eloquent as they explain experience, and compelling as they chronicle the customer.
The criteria for consideration: You may not be a vendor (though there are good vendor blogs out there), and if you work for one your blog must be vendor-agnostic. Your primary focus must be on CRM or an area associated with CRM, and you must have posted at least seven times in the last calendar year.
There’s a lot to be said about the people on this list — but their words speak for themselves. Here are the Top 10 of 2018.
10. Bob Thompson
The original Customer Think author, Bob Thompson has done an astonishing job of keeping his contributions fresh over the years. It’s not that Bob is some technology and business philosopher-king — it’s that he’s observant and unwilling to accept the status quo.
For instance, in an era when businesses use the term “customer experience” in every meeting and every press release, Bob points out how poorly businesses actually are faring in attempting to deliver great CX — and then he talks about how they could do it better, and what the pitfalls are for staying with a losing game plan.
Blockchain is said to be a big deal — is it? Does it actually affect customers? Will it in the future? Have you ever heard of “CXtech”? You know the technology, but Bob put that handy name on it, and then defined it as the massive category it really is.
Bob can wear the IT and business hats equally well, which makes for deeper posts that don’t simply dwell on how cool technology for sales and marketing is, but also go to its implications and how it may change the way we work.
Posts in 2018: 12
9. Epokonic Blog
Thomas Weiberneit took his already great Epokonic blog up several notches this year.
He’s staked out a viewpoint on the CRM world — it’s not about CRM, but customer engagement and relationships, and you can’t deliver those things without a platform — and spent much of 2018 focused on the platform potentials of the large vendors, particularly Salesforce and SAP.
In doing so, he makes the subtle point that CRM is not the end all of building lucrative customer relationships; you need to ensure that the sales experience and the support experience are optimal as well, and that means other parts of the sales process must be optimized with tools like configure-price-quote and contract lifecycle management.
Last year, he was particularly adept at picking apart acquisitions. This year, he put acquisitions into context and had a remarkable knack for explaining what companies really were trying to do as they built their platforms.
Thomas was one of the few to point out that Salesforce might be a juggernaut in CRM, but it may have a weakness in building a platform compared to other big CRM players. Is CRM becoming such a commodity that it is no longer the marquee item in a customer data management suite? Stay tuned — Thomas will let you know if it happens.
Posts in 2018: 28
Favorite post: Clash of Titans: Platform Play
8. CRM Switch
A long time ago, another CRM pundit privately chided me for writing a story about a very basic CRM concept. I countered by reminding him that many people were still CRM neophytes, and that you have to get people through the lower-level courses before you get to the upper-level stuff.
The CRM Switch blog is that argument personified: a bunch of posts about evergreen topics (when should I buy CRM? How do I develop a list of requirements? How do I overcome adoption issues?) interspersed with very targeted advice about specific (but widely applicable) use cases, like How to Crush Google’s New Performance Measurement Score with Your WordPress Site.
The blog is written by Steve Chipman and Daryn Reif, two CRM consultants whose real jobs are probably a lot like this — explaining the basics and then putting their expertise to work on more exciting ideas once customers are up and running.
The blog includes vendor comparisons and a TCO calculator, but it also touches on issues of keeping humanity in the CRM process, something that can be difficult as companies fixate on managing and employing customer data. The only way this blog could be better is if more it could feature more posts each year.
Posts in 2018: 14
7. Voices Carry
Brent Leary has been absent from the list for several years, not because he wasn’t writing but because he was writing for a lot of places, none of them his own. In 2018, he staked out new territory on ZDNet with Voices Carry, talking about an area that he’s specialized in the last few years: voice interfaces, a topic that includes AI, personal assistants — and CRM, of course.
Brent talks a lot about the market battles between various platforms, but he’s at his best talking about the use cases for voice interfaces and how different platforms fare in those cases.
For instance, Brent provided the best analysis of Salesforce’s announcements about Einstein Voice — and later, about Einstein’s integration with Siri. Talking about those developments needs to include the impact they will have on the average CRM user, and Brent has been doing CRM so long that he immediately can grasp the implications of the emergence of voice, and paint a picture of how that will change the CRM user experience.
It won’t just be the CRM experience that changes — Brent already has started talking about how voice will impact related applications, ones that are “CRM-ish,” to borrow his own phrase.
Like voice, this blog is only going to gain in importance in the coming year. Keep your ears open.
Posts in 2018: 17
6. Forrester: Kate Leggett and John Bruno
Kate Leggett and John Bruno handle most CRM-based analysis for Forrester (with related applications being handled by other analysts), and as a result their posts are authoritative and assertive in tone, and they nearly always conclude with an easy-to-digest list — or points, directives or directions.
They’re contained within Forrester’s enormous single blog, so some searching is required, but you’ll find it worth your while. Kate was very strong on AI in CRM this year, which is not surprising because of her background in customer service. She laid out the places where robots will deliver a positive impact in Customer Service Robots Rise Up, a post that talks about AI-equipped physical devices that actually interact with customers and merchandise — and can still have an impact on customer experience.
Bruno staked out his position as the relay man between pure CRM and the applications that give it value, contributing valuable posts about configure-price-quote software in an era when big players like Salesforce and SAP have acquired products to leverage the two three-word acronymns against each other.
Smart — but a little dry, as analysts are wont to be at times — Kate and John provide an educated view of what’s over the horizon, and they can back up their predictions.
Posts in 2018: 20
Favorite post: Sales and Service Tech: Two Sides of the Same Coin
5. Conversational Systems
Sneaking back onto the list this year is Mitch Lieberman, an industry veteran with experience in nearly every role you could list with vendors, system integrators, analyst firms and as a CRM practitioner himself.
He returned to the list with Conversational Systems, his blog about technology that helps make the experience better for the customer on the other end of the conversation from the business.
That does not mean he’s out of CRM. In addition to great posts analyzing investments in SugarCRM and marketing technology moves by Salesforce, Mitch is continuously tacking into the CRM wind to make sure readers don’t get confused about CRM’s importance, even as new technologies crowd core CRM out of the headlines.
A good example of that is Mitch’s post, How Good Clean Data Helps Businesses Earn Trust in Precise Customer Conversations, which explores the hoary old topic of data hygiene in a new way.
First, Mitch asks why the CRM Evolution, SpeechTek and Customer Service Conferences are held simultaneously but separately when these disciplines all influence each other in dramatic and consequential ways (I said the same thing at the closing panel of CRM Evolution in 2012, but that’s not the only reason I admire that take).
Then he explains how you can’t really have impactful conversations with customers without accurate data — not just access to the data within CRM or other systems. Access to accurate data is vital if salespeople, agents, bots and marketers are going to have the conversations they need to succeed.
Data is not an IT thing when Mitch talks about it. His return to the list is a most welcome one.
Posts in 2018: 15
Favorite post: Understanding Chatbots and Next-Generation Conversations .
4. The CRM Consultant
Richard Boardman returns to the list with a reinvigorated blog, The CRM Consultant, which draws on two things: his extensive experience in CRM (15 years as a consultant, time before that with CRM vendors); and his engaging yet no-nonsense way of getting his ideas across.
Richard (this year joined Mark Payne as a contributor to the blog) does not sit around wistfully dreaming of CRM’s glowing future. He’s a lot more interested in fixing the things broken in so many implementations that are holding back CRM’s present.
It’s a pity that many may not find his blog until they’re deep into the CRM world, because his solid advice on what to do early in the consideration and implementation process could save money, aggravation and jobs.
For instance, it’s likely only a consultant would write a post called Seven Things to Consider Before Signing a CRM Contract — but if you’re in charge of the acquisition and deployment on CRM in your business, this is exactly what you need to know.
Even more elemental is the question of Why Absolute Clarity of Purpose is So Important in Implementing CRM Systems. This isn’t a question of technology, but a question of what the business plans to do with the data it collects.
Companies race into CRM implementations without articulating why, or what objectives they will be expected to accomplish. Identifying a purpose makes selection and adoption much easier, and enables businesses to understand ROI better.
Basic stuff? Maybe — but it’s also frequently overlooked. Richard and Mark help remind CRM pros about the hidden-in-plain-sight things that can make and break CRM deployments, making this an indispensable asset.
Posts in 2018: 24
Favorite post: Eleven Early-Stage Red Flags When Considering a CRM Project
3. CRM Search
In a world full of short takes and listicles, the comprehensive posts that Chuck Schaeffer writes for CRM Search are a welcome thing. Delivering the kind of deep analysis that vendors pay the analyst firms big bucks to get, Chuck strips down trends to their bare essence and then rebuilds them so readers can see exactly how those trends and their associated technologies can improve their businesses.
A former CRM company CEO, Chuck wrote several posts from the perspective of wearing his chief executive’s hat, focusing on what he deemed the “Final Four Competitive Advantages” — innovation, culture, customer affinity and predictive analytics.
It should come as no surprise that all four affect or are impacted by CRM — without a successful CRM process, all four can be robbed of the data they need to work.
Chuck had no problem taking an issue that people wrestle with — say, “How to Measure Customer-Centricity” — and delivering a post that answers the question in a decisive way.
If you’re expecting a discussion of CRM as a technology, you’ll be disappointed. It’s clear Chuck sees the technology of CRM as a mostly settled matter, and that the most important factors influencing success or failure are no longer about the software but about the leadership and process design that bind CRM into a company’s DNA.
This blog refocuses the picture on what’s needed to make CRM and its associated technologies drivers of real success.
Posts in 2018: 11
Favorite Post: The Productivity and Payback of Employee Engagement
2. Social CRM: The Conversation
This year, Paul Greenberg showed that he would have been a good editor. He recruited a lot of top talent, including numerous people who finished below him in this list, to write guest posts for Social CRM: The Conversation. That exposed his readers to a lot of important ideas explained by notable leaders in the field, but it limited the amount of Paul they got.
That is a relative term, however. When Paul gets going, you need to settle in, pour yourself a nice beverage, and be prepared to read for a while. He writes lengthy posts, and you’ll need to invest a little time, but they’re written in almost the exactly the same voice in which Paul speaks — itself an uncanny writing feat, and something that makes them very enjoyable.
I don’t think he’s always aware of it, but he writes on multiple levels: When he talks about a hotel that nails not just personalization but also humanization, he’s writing as the pleased customer, as the CRM academic who knows how it should work, and as the practical expert who can pinpoint what went into delighting the customer even (and maybe especially) when he IS the customer.
Paul is also great at examining vendors, which he can do from an extremely well-informed point of view based on his thick web of relationships. His analysis of SAP’s major pivot in 2018 is a great example of this, and it includes his hilarious five-point takedown of the brand name C/4HANA (Point 5: C4 is a plastic explosive).
This is why Paul has been at the top of this list for so long: He uses relationships to build his knowledge, and he uses his knowledge to build his relationships, creating something that results in great blogs (in addition to a lot of other great things that have helped the CRM community over the years).
Posts in 2018: 26
Favorite post: SAP Pivots as the Customer Turns 2018
1. Beagle Research Blog
Denis Pombriant takes this year’s top slot with his prolific Beagle Research blog, which leaps from subject to subject with dizzying frequency but, when taken as a whole, places CRM in a context that emphasizes how important CRM is to business and the greater world.
Denis, who is also a regular contributor to CRM Buyer, did great work analyzing the moves of the big players in 2018. He wrote some insightful pieces about where CRM is going (and how well companies actually are employing CRM), and evaluated what CRM itself was in an era when the core technology simultaneously is becoming a must-have business application and a commodity.
He zigs as much as he zags: Should social media be regulated? (Denis suggests they’re becoming like utilities and may need to be.) Why can’t Facebook provide its users with an acceptable degree of security if a relative fuddy-duddy like Oracle has been able to focus on it in recent years?
How did the space program of the 1960s set the tone for digital transformation? How could digital currencies become the tools by which people bypass torpid government entities to fund responses and solutions to climate change?
In between all of this, Denis examines the practical stuff, too, like why salespeople are finding it harder and harder to make quota and how to overcome this.
Is it a lot to take in? Sure it is! But that’s the way CRM is. The minute you assume it’s merely about increasing your sales is the minute you fail to take advantage of the chain of activities it can catalyze.
Companies grousing about their CRM ROI may not suffer simply from poor execution; they may also suffer from insufficient expectations about the transformative power of knowledge.
Denis’ blog can serve as a barometer of how expansive your view of CRM is, both as a technology and as a discipline. That is why his blog is perched at the top of our list this year.
Total posts in 2018: 48
Favorite post: CRM’s Oligopoly